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Houthi rebels deploy UUV in Red Sea

Yemeni-based Houthi rebels have deployed and then blown up an explosives-packed Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) in the Red Sea’s international shipping lanes. The USV was believed to be targeting either merchant shipping using the Straits of Bab el Mandeb, or naval vessels trying to protect them.

While no ships were hit in this attack, the commander of US Naval Forces, Central Command, Vice Admiral Brad Cooper said that the persistent threat from the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in an international shipping lane is a vital concern.

“Our assessment is that 55 nations have direct connections to the ships who’ve been attacked, whether through the flagging state, where the goods were produced or destined, or the nationalities of the innocent mariners aboard each vessel,” Cooper said.

“The impacts of these attacks stretch across the globe,” he said. “This is an international problem that requires an international solution.”

Since mid-November, Houthi rebels have launched 25 attacks against merchant vessels operating in the Red Sea. Those include the detonation of an unmanned surface vessel in international shipping lanes just a few days ago.

Cooper said that since the start of the Operation Prosperity Guardian, the US-led coalition has shot down 19 drones and missiles and sunk three small boats launched by the Houthis against vessels operating in the Red Sea.

Of the drones and missiles shot down, 11 were uncrewed, aerial vehicles; two were cruise missiles; and six were antiship cruise missiles.

About 1,500 merchant ships have safely transited the Red Sea since mid-December when the US launched Operation Prosperity Guardian, according to the US Navy. The operation is a multinational, maritime security initiative responding to the recent escalation in Houthi attacks originating from Yemen.

“We are certainly mindful of the continued threat and expect the Houthi attacks may continue,” he said.

The governments of the US, Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand and the United Kingdom have issued a joint statement condemning the attacks and warned the rebel group against further escalation.

“Ongoing Houthi attacks in the Red Sea are illegal, unacceptable, and profoundly destabilizing,” the statement read in part. “There is no lawful justification for intentionally targeting civilian shipping and naval vessels.”

The group of nations warned that the Houthis “will bear the responsibility of the consequences should they continue to threaten lives, the global economy and [the] free flow of commerce in the region’s critical waterways.”

“We remain committed to the international rules-based order and are determined to hold malign actors accountable for unlawful seizures and attacks,” the statement concluded.

The multinational force in OP Prosperity Guardian will operate under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces and the leadership of Task Force 153, a US Navy-led initiative focused on maritime security in the Red Sea.

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